Spring is in full bloom and now is the perfect time to add color to your outdoor space with container gardens! There are many ways you can approach container gardening. Whether you’re the DIY gardener or you’d like some design assistance, we’re here to help add some spring cheer to your home.
For the DIY Gardener
Choose a container: This will set the tone for the entire project. Consider the style, shape, and size. If it’s highly decorative, you may want to stick to less frilly plants. If it’s a simple plastic container, you may need to choose some more exciting plants. Considering the size is important as well. Many people choose too small of a container, and as the plants grow, they quickly run out of room to thrive. It’s also important to consider that the smaller the container, the more often you’ll need to water.
Choose your plant color palette: Stick with a color scheme to avoid what we call the “confetti approach”. This will give you a much more cohesive overall design. Choose complementary colors with a few contrasting accents, or go with a single color in varying shades for a more monochromatic look.
Establish the exposure: Determine what conditions your container will be in—the amount of sun or shade is especially important. What is the water availability? Don’t set your plants up for failure.
Thriller, Filler, Spiller: Grouping plants together that have different growth habits creates a full and layered effect without crowding. This is a general guideline and may not apply to all container plantings, but it is a useful tool. A “thriller” is an upright centerpiece, often an evergreen or a showy perennial. A “filler” is a midrange flower or foliage plant. A “spiller” is a trailing flower or foliage plant. Remember, foliage plants add punch and definition essential for a well-rounded combination—it doesn’t have to be all about the flowers.
Planting: Use quality potting soil and fertilizer; fill bottom of container with soil to the level of the largest plant’s root ball and continue adding soil as you plant, covering and filling in around roots. Planting order is usually largest plants first followed by smallest (by container size). Always water your container after planting.
Maintenance: Regular watering, fertilizing, and cleaning/pest control are key for most containers to keep looking great throughout the season. However, cool, rainy weather and young, shallow-rooted plantings need less frequent watering.
For Fresh, Seasonal Color: Consider the Drop-In Approach
Drop-ins are a new approach to container plantings that are ideal for garden lovers with busy schedules. This means using a plastic pot that can discretely fit inside your decorative one and planting it with seasonal combinations or even purchasing one pre-planted! You have instant seasonal color that can be refreshed easily or switched out over the seasons.
I like to have a fresh pot of spring blooming bulbs at my door, but once they are done flowering, I pull out the pot and switch it for one with more dramatic spring and summer annuals that will look good for months. Drop-in pots are also a great way to learn about plant combinations and to gain confidence in container gardening through the seasons.
Container Maintenance Tips
Fertilize: My favorite fertilizer combination is Rose Society 15.10.10 mixed 50/50 with G&B Organic Bud & Bloom (just G&B organic for containers with edibles). The combination of a time release and an organic with beneficial microbes makes for a healthy and colorful start.
Watering: Watering is the most important aspect to a successful container—not too much and not too little! Remember, the more water a container requires, the hungrier it will be. So, make sure to water and feed them regularly throughout the growing season. Newly planted containers may need water less frequently while roots are young and temperatures are cool. Watering frequency will increase as plants mature and temperatures rise.
Pests: Pests can be a problem; make sure you treat for pests before they wreak havoc on your container! This doesn’t mean spraying every chemical on the shelf—for example, our beloved petunias and geraniums are prone to budworm, so we spray with BT (bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacteria that is very safe) every two weeks beginning in late June or early July to protect new growth from the voracious caterpillars. Healthy plants that are well-fed and well-watered are less prone to pest problems.
Pinch: Don’t be afraid to trim plants that are bullying other plants in a container to maintain balance. A light trim can help long, lanky plants grow fuller, and remember to remove spent flowers before they form seeds to encourage reblooming.
Have fun! Every planting is a learning experience and we are here to give you guidance. It’s a great chance to try something new!
Container design inspiration can be found by visiting our garden centers. We have drop-ins for those of you who are too busy or don’t enjoy getting your hands dirty and we offer custom container planting as well. Contact us to schedule your container gardening needs today!